Path to Peacefulness

Boardwalk to the beach at Gulf Shores

Boardwalk to the beach at Gulf Shores

I’ve talked before about “Creating my path.” The image above is a perfect symbol for that path. Although the landscape shifts around, my goal is to find peace and happiness. And since my trip to Gulf Shores, I’ve felt more peaceful. Happiness is returning to my life. I was worried about the holidays, but am feeling confident that this year will be exciting, a time of creating new traditions and enjoying the new path my life has taken. But I also recognize that others are struggling.  The holidays can be a time of sadness and frustration, and if you are hurting, the joyousness of the season can feel like a slap in the face. If you are struggling along your path, try this:

  • Take a few minutes each day to journal – in longhand, whatever you feel, whatever you want to say.
  • Meditate each day. Simply be in the moment, feel the breath flow in and out of your body, and allow your thoughts to quiet.
  • Light a candle. Smell is a strong scent that can evoke emotions (my favorite is pumpkin – that scent always reminds me of the holidays at home).
  • Recognize that there are others worse off than you. There are people in the hospital and nursing homes who are struggling to live, soldiers serving overseas who miss their families, pets in shelters who do not understand why they aren’t loved.
  • Now do something for someone worse off than you. If you can’t think of a darned thing to do, pack up something you no longer use and donate it. Or buy a bag of dog food and deliver it to an animal shelter.

 

Day 188 of the Empty Nest: Being Thankful

Image

Image Courtesy of: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=10419

Although the last six months have been incredibly difficult, and I have dealt with a range of emotions, I am coming to accept the fact that our Nest is now empty, and recognizing that, in spite of the fact that I wish things were different, life is good. If you are struggling with an Empty Nest, perhaps you can identify with the following:

  • I am thankful my child is confident enough to be independent
  • I am thankful my child is healthy enough to live on her own
  • I am thankful my husband and I have the opportunity to be a couple again (well, for the first time, actually . . . since my stepdaughter was 6 when we got married)
  • I am thankful I now have time to explore my own interests

What are you thankful for?

Solitude

Woman on the beach at Gulf Shores

Woman on the beach at Gulf Shores

The week I spent in Gulf Shores was healing. I felt a sense of peace that I have never felt before. Given the difficulties of the past six months, that sense of peace was greatly appreciated. It allowed me to heal (well, to begin to heal, anyway). When I returned home to the hustle and bustle and routine of life, that sense of peace stuck with me for a while. I can still feel it if I stop what I’m doing, breathe slowly and imagine myself walking along the edge of the surf as the birds call out to each other in the early morning calm.

I tend to want to to figure things out, examine them and pick them apart. When I turned my inquisitive mind to that week, I thought it might have been the lack of pressure, the freedom to do what I wanted, the salty sea air. And it could have been any one of those things. Or all of those things. But most of all, I think it was the solitude.

Like the woman in the picture above, there is something calming and soothing about being alone with our thoughts.

Very zen. But so true.

I challenge you to allow yourself time alone, every day. Take a few moments to be quiet. Alone. Listen. Listen to the sounds of nature around you, the sound of your breath, and – this is important – listen to YOU.

Let me know how it goes for you.

BTW – if you like this, check out Zen Habits. I really like the blog post about breathing.

Accepting Help

Sea gulls hitching a ride on the Fort Morgan ferry

Sea gulls hitching a ride on the Fort Morgan ferry

One of the most difficult things for me to do is accept help. I’m a bit of a control freak (give me credit here . . . recognizing the problem is the first step towards fixing it, right?), and I often have a hard time accepting assistance from others. At work, I hate to ask my co-worker to do anything because I know she’s got enough on her desk without taking on my tasks. At home, I DO nag my hubs to help, but most of the time I just do the dishes, the laundry, the cleaning and inwardly rage because he doesn’t recognize that I have no clean underwear.

When my daughter left home under less than ideal circumstances, I felt I had to deal with it on my own. I hid my tears, pretended everything was okay, and forged ahead with life. But here’s the thing: Sometimes it’s OK to hitch a ride and let someone share your burden – just like the sea gulls that hitched a ride on the ferry. They wanted to get from Point A to Point B, and the ferry was there, willing and able to give them a lift. Once I opened up and began to let people see the hurt I was feeling, I immediately felt their support and encouragement, and didn’t feel quite so alone in the world. Others told me about their experiences, good and bad. And I began to heal.

So, if you find yourself trying to fly and are having difficulties doing so, take a cue from the Alabama gulls above and let someone else carry some of the load. There’s no shame in accepting help, and by opening up, you just might help someone else who is also suffering in silence.

New Experiences: NASCAR

Kansas Speedway

Kansas Speedway

Last month my hubby got tickets to a NASCAR race at Kansas Speedway. I’m not a NASCAR fan, and had never been to a race, but I did enjoy the experience. It was exciting, feeling the rumble of the engines as the cars flew past the grandstand. Several things made an impact on me that day:

  • The cheapness of the parking (not just all the mud, but the inflatable doll swinging from a flag pole that helped us find our car at the end of the day)
  • The number of RVs in the infield (wow, lots of money there . . .)
  • Serious tailgating that made the Mizzou football games look like amateur hour (folks set up for days!)
  • Everyone walking around with earphones on, listening to scanners (note to self: this’d be a great place to have a truly private conversation, because nobody could possibly overhear)
  • Waving at the drivers as they passed the grandstand the first time

What have you done that was a new experience? What did you take away from the experience?

Empty Nest: Day 172

Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

A year ago, my daughter was nearly finished with the first semester of her senior year of high school. She was looking forward to college, and I was looking forward to her going to college. Then six months ago, it felt as though she had ripped the rug from under our feet when she ran away and claimed she was “terrified” of us – with absolutely no warning, no fights, no problems to warn us of the impending accusations. Within half an hour, my dreams of dropping her off at college, sending her care packages, and hearing all about her experiences as a college freshman were destroyed. If that sounds selfish, it is. I wanted to be a college mom. I proudly wore my “CSC Mom” t-shirt every weekend. I bragged on her to anyone and everyone. I just knew she was going to be successful, whether she ended up as a high school band director or as a music store owner. I thought I was supporting and encouraging her dreams. I cried when she got the John Phillips Sousa Award at the spring band concert (as did she). So many happy memories . . .

It has been nearly six months since she left. I still want for her what I want for both my girls: for them to be happy, healthy, productive members of society. She’s young. There’s still plenty of time for that to happen. And that is what brings me to my point: there is plenty of time for her to find her way. That is up to her now. I cannot carry that load for her, no matter how badly I want to. The load I must carry is my own. I need to be a happy, healthy, productive member of society. That is what every Empty Nester needs to understand. We have been selfish on behalf of our children. We want the best for them, we want to do everything we can for them, we want to prepare them for life. But when they leave the nest, we must allow them to flutter, to test their wings, and eventually, to soar on the wind.

Our priorities shift from our children to ourselves when they leave the nest. And that isn’t a bad thing. In my case, it was akin to ripping a bandage off. Granted, it was a big friggin’ bandage and it left an exposed wound that still hasn’t healed, but at least it happened quickly. I hope that eventually we’re able to heal that wound, but for now, my focus is on my marriage and myself. It is time for my husband and I to get to know each other again, to plan for the future, and to nourish our dreams.

And that’s OK.

National Novel Writing Month Withdrawal

This is the 2nd year in a row I haven’t participated in National Novel Writing Month. And it bums me out. I won NaNo eight times – every year I participated, I ended the month with a first draft that I was proud of. Last year, I decided that I had outgrown NaNo and owed it to myself to finish something, and take my writing more seriously. But I still miss NaNo. What do I miss?

  • The challenge of writing 50K words in a single month
  • The feeling of camaraderie that came from the psychic connection with writers all over the world
  • Write-ins fueled by caffeine and word wars
  • The word count bar growing day by day
  • The forums (especially NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul)
  • Earning my purple bar
  • Last, but not least, making writing a priority

<SIGH>

Maybe I need to do my own version of NaNo this month. I think I need a write-in . . .

Make Yourself a Priority

Image

 

For years, I put my daughter first. She has now flown the coop. For the first time in my life, as an empty nester, I do not feel guilty putting myself first. But what does that mean? How do I make myself a priority? Today is a perfect example. I took the day off. A whole, entire day to myself, by myself. Feels decadent. And it is. But it is also work. I have a LOT that I want to accomplish today, because my time is precious. And by extension, by recognizing that my time is precious, I am recognizing that I am precious. I am editing, critiquing, drafting. I’m having so much fun! :o)

Over the past several months, I have done a few things for me and allowed my wants and needs to be a priority:

  • Went to a Star Trek convention. If you haven’t and you enjoy sci-fi at all, go. The con was an absolute hoot.
  • Went to ORACon 2013. Whatever you want to do with your life, whatever your goals, you must invest time and effort into achieving your goals. If you want to write, go to a conference. You will make connections and you will be inspired.
  • Went to Michigan with my husband and stepdaughter. That time was invaluable. It allowed us to reconnect and make memories.
  • Went to Gulf Shores with a good friend and her mother. The trip was amazing. I got to know myself a little better, allowed myself time to heal recent wounds, and spent time focusing on the craft of writing.

Hmmm. Looking over this list, I note a trend. Went. Travel and experiences are important to me. By experiencing new things, I grow. I learn. What have you done for you lately? How are you making yourself a priority?